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#Game industry
#Game design

5 top game design books that’ll take you from “Huh?” to the “A-Ha!” moment

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Two reasons to read game design books:

  • To learn new tricks 😉
  • To organize and systemize your current knowledge

Sometimes you work on a gut feeling and don’t really know why things feel right. And this is the part where video game design books come into the picture. So if you’re looking for game design books recommendations – this is a place for you.

And remember – there are plenty of jobs for skilled game designers out there.

Check our Gamedev Insights episode about Game Design!

The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses – Jesse Schell

An absolute must-read if you want to dive into game design fundamentals. The author covers basic game design elements that you could easily translate into all possible games out there. Boardgames, Card games, Mobile games? Just pick.

Each section explains a different part of the game design workflow. Starting with brainstorming, prototyping correctly, and going all the way to making sure that the game flow is fun.

This book makes you think about games from various perspectives (lenses) and pushes you to think about your game by asking you questions. By answering them, you can check how well your game confronts each lens. And it makes you think, “what can you improve upon your own design?”

You can buy “The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses” by Jesse Schell here

Why should you read it?:

  • The book is well written. Don’t expect academic-hard-to-read gibberish.
  • Jesse Schell teaches from experience. So you can be sure that this book is backed up with tons of expertise learned from the field.
  • The book is well organized – so you’ll naturally flow from the basics to more advanced stuff.
  • It makes you think and analyze your current work.
  • All lenses are easily accessible via a special mobile app. You can download it here

Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games – Tracy Fullerton

An actual professor writes this game design book, and you can get a feeling that she wrote it having her students in mind.

The book is well structured. It covers all essential elements of games. It teaches you how to build engaging gameplay. You’ll learn how to prototype your game. It’ll also shed some light on how you should approach playtesting.

You can buy “Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games” by Tracy Fullerton here

Why should you read it?:

  • It’s a very well-structured position. In Part I, you’ll learn about basic concepts of game design. Part II is where you’re actually designing a game, while Part III prepares you for your future professional game designer role.
  • “Designer Perspective” sections are very useful. These are helpful tips and pieces of advice that can show you how differently each designer approaches their work.

A Theory of Fun for Game Design – Raph Koster

This brilliantly written book won’t teach you how to design games from scratch. But if you want to ask, “so why should I bother about it then?”, let me stop you right here. This game design book will try to teach you (or remind you) about the core of what we’re all doing here: How to entertain players?

You’ll learn how to capture players’ attention. See how our minds work. You’ll understand why people get bored with the games and when does it happen. And most importantly – what a game designer can do to hold that precious players’ engagement.

Consider it more of a philosophy guide.

You can buy “A Theory of Fun for Game Design” by Raph Koster here

Why should you read it?:

  • Hilarious and witty language. Well written book
  • Filled with colorful illustrations
  • It’ll remind you about the core and sole purpose of video games
  • Excellent addition to more academic positions
  • You’ll read it in no time

Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals – Katie Salen, Eric Zimmerman

If the previous game design book was a definition of an easy-to-read guide… prepare for something which is the complete opposite. This book is tough to digest, but it’s totally worth the pain that comes with it.

Rules of Play tries to achieve what other similar positions did not – to build a proper framework for game design. Definitely something worth recommending for the more advanced readers.

You can buy “Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals” by Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman here

Why should you read it?:

  • Offers in-depth knowledge of game design. The book covers a lot of techniques and principles
  • Addresses a lot of design issues that game designer can stumble upon
  • It’s a very technical read meant for people who want to become professional game designers

Game Feel: A Game Designer’s Guide to Virtual Sensation – Steve Swink

This is one of the most unique video game design books on our list. It’s interesting because it touches on different aspects of game design. It focuses on the FEEL.

While other books are basically teaching you how to design a game – this book adds an additional flavour. You’ll learn how to share sensations with your players. It’s a guide to know how our perception works and how to use our senses and deep metaphors to complement our game design.

You can buy “Game Feel: A Game Designer’s Guide to Virtual Sensation” by Steve Swink here

Why should you read it?:

  • It’s a great addition to the other game design books.
  • It’ll teach you some sophisticated ways to reach your players.
  • An author offers a set of tools that show the importance of sensation components on a special website

Share with us what did you learn from the game design books.
Also, if you have any other positions that you would recommend to your fellow game designers – let us know 😉

We’ll gladly update our list!